Flexible automation: A comparison of operator-triggered and static automation

Stephanie Chen, Shayne Loft, Troy Visser, Janelle Braithewaite

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemerapeer-review


Objective: To pilot an automation design in a simulated submarine track management context, which allows operators to decide when to invoke automation as required, and compare their subsequent performance, workload and situation awareness with those operating with static automation or no automation. Background: During operations that require continuous monitoring of multiple objects and concurrent decision making, matching automation levels with taskload can potentially prevent extreme high or low workload and improve situation awareness and performance, compared with fixed level (static) automation. However the cognitive cost of deciding when to make a trigger decision can potentially outweigh these advantages. This is a crucial consideration when designing operator-triggered automation. Method: Using a within-subjects design, ten undergraduate students operated a submarine track management simulation during three, 28-minute, counter-balanced conditions: no automation, static automation, and operator-triggered automation. The participants needed to monitor the behaviour and location of unknown vessels on their sonar display in order to complete several individual tasks and one global task. Results: Static automation reduced workload, improved the performance of some individual tasks, but impaired the performance of global tasks and reduced operator situation awareness. Contrary to our expectations, the use of operator-triggered automation resulted in the poorer performance on some tasks compared to no automation or static automation, and did not increase situation awareness. Conclusions: This pilot of the submarine track management automation paradigm was generally successful. The cost of static automation to situation awareness was minimal, and users invoked automation during periods of high taskload. The operator-triggered automation design will need adjusting to better avoid reorientation costs.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
Event49th Annual Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia Conference 2013, HFESA 2013 - Perth, WA, Australia
Duration: 2 Dec 20134 Dec 2013


Conference49th Annual Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia Conference 2013, HFESA 2013
CityPerth, WA


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